BOSTON — Logan International Airport workers rallied outside the Statehouse to push for a $15 an hour minimum wage, after calling off a strike Wednesday morning in the wake of the terrorist bombing at the airport in Brussels on Tuesday.
Led by Massachusetts-32BJ SEIU, a union with 18,000 members in the Bay State, the workers sought to drum up support for legislation from Sen. Sal DiDomenico and Rep. Adrian Madaro (H 3923 / S 2125) that would phase in the minimum wage increase over three years, taking it to $12 this year, $13.50 next year and to $15 in 2018.
"We all depend on airport workers for safe travels, to have a good time with our families and not really worry about safety," DiDomenico said. "The ironic thing is that the salaries paid to airport workers don't even allow them to bring their own families on vacation."
On Jan. 1, the statewide minimum wage rose to a nation-leading $10 an hour, under a law passed in 2014. The last of three $1 increases under that law — to $11 — is set for Jan. 1, 2017.
After the rally, the workers headed inside the State House to lobby senators to support the bill. The bill was given a favorable report from the Labor and Workforce Committee, and DiDomenico said he's still trying to gauge how much support the bill has among lawmakers.
"Talking to my colleagues, some of my colleagues agree with it and other colleagues need a -- we'll discuss it more with them," the Everett Democrat said. "It's a big issue and a lot of people agree with the premise of it, they understand that $15 an hour is a fair wage to support a family in today's world, especially the greater Boston area."
Rep. Daniel Ryan of Charlestown said he thinks there is an appetite on Beacon Hill to take up the issue of raising the minimum wage this session.
"I think people recognize the economic disadvantages people talk about all the time in our national news and everything else," he said. "There's one percent and the gap between the rich and the poor, that's not rhetoric, that's a reality. I think the question is, who's willing to deal with it?"
Workers in a variety of fields, across Massachusetts and nationwide, have been fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Fast food and retail workers, personal care attendants and nursing home employees are among those seeking the higher pay floor.
"This is a great opportunity for us to show the rest of the world that we can have profitable, successful companies and treat our workers with respect and dignity, create homeowner opportunities, create livable wages, give people vacation and sick time," Ryan said.
A bill (S 1024) to escalate the minimum hourly wage for workers at major big box stores and fast food restaurants to $15 by 2018 was given a favorable report by the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in November, but has sat idle before the Senate Ways and Means Committee since.
Though supporters say the wage floor encourages commercial activity, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in late January that he sees some positive aspects to another minimum wage increase, but does not envision the House taking the issue up.
"I quite frankly can't see us revisiting that particular issue, an issue which we just had taken up, and as a matter of fact it just rose January 1 of this year and it will rise another dollar January 1 of next year," DeLeo told reporters. "So I'm not sure how we would revisit that."